Crosby Little League goes to bat for player with cancer
A little more than four years after losing her mother to breast cancer, Natalie Sowell was told on Jan. 16 that her 11-year-old daughter, Jessyca, had cancer.
Just days before Jessy was diagnosed, Natalie Sowell found a lump on her oldest daughter’s collarbone. She took Jessy to the ER, where they took a CT scan and found the lump was pressing on Jessy’s esophagus. Jessy was sent home with antibiotics.
By the end of the week, though, Jessy was having trouble breathing and swallowing. Natalie Sowell and her husband, Roger Sowell, took her to Texas Children’s Hospital, which confirmed the lump was a tumor. The next morning, Jessy was in surgery and doctors diagnosed her with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stage 2A. Jessy was told she could not play softball this year for the first time since taking up the sport seven years ago. If she bleeds, she would require a transfusion.
Immediately, however, Jessy’s softball family took action, organizing fundraisers, making visits to the hospital and preparing dinners for the family of four. Jessy has played in the Crosby Little League since T-ball. Her little sister, Kaylee, plays and Roger sits on the Crosby Little League board.
Saturday morning, less than three months after Jessy was diagnosed, the league hosted its opening ceremonies for the new season. Each softball player wore a jersey embroidered with a small ribbon and the initials “J.S.” Two mobile blood donation centers set up camp next to the ballfields and Jessy threw out the first pitch.
Wearing a pink baseball hat emblazoned with “LOVE” and a softball in place of the “O,“Jessy toured the mobile blood center with Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center Donor Recruitment Coordinator Patricia LeBlanc on Saturday before the games began. LeBlanc had greeted the young softball player with a fist bump to keep Jessy from germs.
Natalie Sowell said her daughter hardly spoke for a month after the diagnosis, contrary to her natural character. Usually, Natalie Sowell said, kind-hearted Jessy befriends everyone she meets. But after watching their grandmother die from cancer, Jessy and little sister Kaylee feared the worst. It took a while for the girls to understand Jessy didn’t have what “mamaw” had.
“With my mom, we said we had God on our side,” said Natalie Sowell, tears filling her eyes. ”’We’ll beat this. We’ll be OK. Right up until she passed. So, this time, they come out and tell us, ‘Your child has cancer.’ It just took you back to that, and the whole time they’re telling us, ‘If you’re going to get cancer, this is the one you want.’ And we found out the stage - they said ‘This is a great stage’, and I’m thinking that’s only one stage less than Mom’s when they found it.
“The whole time they’re saying, ‘This is good, this is good. This is good.’”
According to the American Cancer Society, the survival rate is about 90 percent for those with stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
After Jessy’s second week of chemotherapy, a scan didn’t detect a tumor, and Natalie began to believe the doctors, even when Jessy’s third chemotherapy session went south when Jessy had an allergic reaction to a blood and platelet transfusion. She also has high blood pressure and a high heart rate. Doctors also had to take into account that Jessy only has one working kidney because of a birth defect.
Jessy and her mom stayed in the hospital for a few nights, and with one final chemotherapy session left scheduled for Wednesday, Natalie Sowell was both concerned for her daughter and relieved they were almost over.
“But if that’s the worst we have to go through, we’re doing better than some,” Natalie Sowell said.